Philip Hammond

Contemporary Music

Philip Hammond was born in Belfast in 1951. He graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in l974 as a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts.

In July 2003, he became the first composer ever to graduate as a Doctor of Music from Queen’s.

Following an encompassing career in teaching, performing and writing, he retired from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2009 after twenty years which included two years designing and managing an international arts festival in Washington DC complementing Northern Ireland’s presence at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2007.

In retirement he is often engaged as a presenter and correspondent by the BBC and RTÉ and he writes critiques for the Belfast Telegraph and the Culture Northern Ireland website.

Philip Hammond has received commissions for, amongst others, the Ulster Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, the contemporary ensemble Lontano, the Brodsky String Quartet

and for individual musicians such as Sir James Galway, Sarah Walker, Suzanne Murphy, Tasmin Little, Barry Douglas, Nikolai Demidenko and Dame Ann Murray.

His “Miniatures and Modulations” piano pieces were based on the Bunting Collection of 1796 and commissioned by the 2011 Belfast Festival at Queen’s for the three young Irish pianists Michael McHale, David Quigley and Cathal Breslin

who are also playing on a CD of his piano music released as part of his 6oth Anniversary celebrations year.

For April 2012, he wrote a “Requiem for the lost souls of the Titanic” which was performed in Belfast Cathedral on the night the ship went down exactly one hundred years before.

“Like most classical music composers in Northern Ireland, the Troubles is reflected in my work only tangentially and indirectly.

I did not write music which portrayed or referred to specific events during the forty years of the Troubles as it seemed too obvious and unnecessary, for want of a better word, to do so.

Whereas other artforms felt comfortable with directly reflecting the subtle and not so subtle consequences of community division, mere criminality and outright violence,

I as a classical music composer did not feel “inspired” by such considerations.

However, it is undoubtedly a fact that all of us who lived here through that period from the sixties onwards for several decades were affected one way or another, and probably in ways we don’t even realize.”

“…while the sun shines…” could be seen as an indirect outcome of the Troubles in that it highlights the music of what is simplistically referred to as “the two traditions” here in Ireland,

under the banner of a memorial tribute to Sir Hamilton Harty. Harty was brought up in Hillsborough Co.Down and aware of his Irish heritage musically although from whatever “religious” source

that heritage was aligned with. He considered himself an Irishman but not in opposition to any other nationality because such a thought probably never entered his head.

He lived the most of his life in England. Harty not only had a wide knowledge of Irish folksong but went so far as to invent his own tunes which bear considerable resemblance to “the originals”.

But he was not trying to make any point politically – it was merely a musical interest and statement.

I have always found myself to be in something of a similar position. I was brought up in East Belfast and educated in a very “establishment” Unionist/Protestant school.

But I no longer have any religious affiliation to Christianity – protestant or catholic – and I travel always on an Irish passport.

I support entirely the idea of diversity in society and I am against the marginalization of any views which are not necessarily the accepted norm or those of the majority.

As a gay man in Northern Ireland, I have always felt myself to be outside the accepted community view, the standard norm perhaps.

In “…while the sun shines…” I specifically use this idea of diversity in musical traditions to construct a piece around the memory of Sir Hamilton Harty. The programme note used for the first performance of the work in 2005 is appended further on.


Piano Music by Philip Hammond (Lorelt Label LNT134)

Articles and Books:

Contributer to “HAMILTON HARTY” Ed.David Greer Pub.Blackstaff 1979